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Worthless Works
What are They?   

Q. When we stand before Christ in judgment, what kinds of works will be burned-up like it says in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15? I would like to know what deeds and attitudes are burned-up or cause us to lose out on some rewards because I want to avoid that if possible in the short time I have left on earth.


Thanks for your heartfelt question. This is probably one of the most important questions we can answer. It helps us to decide what to focus on and what really counts in our lives.

For our readers, this question refers to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, particularly to 3:15:

"If any man's work which he has built on it (the foundation of Jesus Christ) remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (NASB).

The Foundation of Works must be Christ

The foundation of all that we say, think, and do must be built upon the Lordship and Redemptive work of Christ. (See 1 Peter 2:6, Eph. 2:20, and Matthew 16:15-21). Those things we do, think and say that are not built upon this foundation will be lost forever. Therefore, this is an important subject to study.

Church Deeds most likely to be Burned Up

Dr. Paul Benware suggests four things practiced in churches that may very well be burned up in judgment. They are:

Psyche 101

1. Psychology

Psychology replaces God's Word and the healing power of the Holy Spirit with man's theories. Psychotherapy tends to diminish our view of the sufficiency of the Word of God.

To this we might also add 12-Step programs which replace our Holy God with a nebulous higher power. Prosperity and Positive Thinking cults might be another false gospel. All of these contain beliefs and attitudes which replace God with themselves.

Emotions&Body Beautiful Pursuits

2. Personal Experiences

Personal experiences may replace the importance of renewing our minds (Ro. 12:2). This may include focusing upon speaking in tongues, visions, and dreams to the exclusion of Bible study or a focus upon the needs of others.

To this we might also add all of the believers who sell expensive health supplements and exercise programs to unsuspecting church members.

Then we might also add those who sell prosperity and wealth gospels to believers. These things neglect the Lordship and redemptive power of Jesus Christ. These things emphasize goals which replace renewing our minds through studying the Word of God, with useless, temporal things.

Empty Rites&Traditions

3. Church Traditions

Empty, rote traditions may emphasize rituals rather than worship. Doctrinal issues such as infant baptism, eschatology, and Israel's role in end times may reflect erroneous traditions. Rote prayers may also fit empty church traditions.

False Teachings

4. False Doctrines or Errors

False doctrines and erroneous teachings may be teachings such as annihilationism or universalism which detract from Christ's redemptive work on the cross.


Exodus Sins

In addition to the above church practices which may result in loss at the judgment seat of Christ, the Apostle Paul lists four sins the Exodus generation committed which prevented them from receiving their inheritance and entering the Promised Land.

As a result of these sins they were benched or disqualified. Please note that these are examples for the benefit of Christian believers - not unbelievers - listed in 1 Corinthians 10:6-10. They are:

401Ks&Credit Cards

1. Idolatry - placing anyone or anything above trusting the Lord. This could mean trusting our 401k to take care of us in old age rather than the Lord. It could mean trusting credit cards rather than God for our needs or desires.

Gay Bishops

2. Sexual Immorality

Those immoral acts which may bring disqualification here and now such as acting out homosexual desires or having an extra marital affair can cause great loss in our current lives and at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Dissatisfaction with our Lives

3. Trying the Lord

Bad attitudes which reveal our rejection of the Lordship of Christ or God's sovereignty over our lives is equivalent to "trying the Lord." Resenting fellow Christians or our old car or wanting a nicer or bigger house may reveal such an attitude.


4. Grumbling and Murmuring

Grumbling, complaining and murmuring are manifestations of rebellion and lack of gratitude to the Lord. Expressing discontent and whining over not having nicer clothes or a newer car, or even whining about your church, pastor, or its members could reveal a spirit of grumbling and murmuring. We feel irritated with whining children. In the same way God becomes irritated with us when we complain about things.


Carnal Christians

Finally, Galatians 5:19-23 is a list of fleshly deeds that we are to avoid. Although a somewhat controversial interpretation, Benware and Dillow insist this writing was given to Christians who have already been accepted into the kingdom - not to unbelievers.

In this passage Paul was warning Christians what they must NOT do if they expect to receive their full inheritance in God's kingdom. In order to present this list in plain, modern English we have used the New Living Translation:

"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results:

sexual immorality,
impure thoughts,
eagerness for lustful pleasure,
participation in demonic activities,
outbursts of anger,
selfish ambition,
the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy,
wild parties,
and other kinds of sin.

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God"
(Galatians 5:19-23, NLT).

Remember that carnal Christians will "enter" heaven. However, they may not "inherit" rewards and privileged positions as they might have.
The list from Galatians 5:19-23 summarizes the fleshly deeds, church practices, and behaviors that may disqualify us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those works will be burned up as useless.

Let's review them often so that we can rid them from our lives and focus upon those things that are truly rewarded.



Benware, Paul. 2002. The believer's payday. Chattanooga, TN: AMG.

Dillow, Joseph. 2006 ed. The reign of the servant kings. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing.

Lutzer, Erwin W. 1998. Your eternal reward. Chicago, ILL: Moody.

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